| Family Diary |

Off the Rack: Chapter 9

“This is a disaster,” I told my mother after one near-miss with a dress and bowl of batter.


“Mooooomm! I’m staaaaarving! When’s supper?”

“I’m so sorry about the noise,” I said with a tight smile to the customer who’d come to browse the racks. Even down in the basement, we could hear the sounds of my family upstairs. “Where were we?”

“You were going to check if you have this dress in the green,” she said, and pointed to an item on the rack.

“Yes, let me go see.”

I rummaged through the racks lined against the wall — my store was so tight there was no room to build more racks and unpack the inventory.

I handed my customer the dress and waited for her to try it on. Once she came out of the fitting room — my parents’ laundry room — she twirled in front of the mirror.

“I love the dress,” she told me, “and I love how I feel in it.”

Looking at the brightness of her smiling eyes, I had no doubt she did.

“You look amazing,” I said.

As I reached to hang up the dress she wasn’t taking, I caught a glimpse of myself in the same fitting room mirror. Now that I had gained some of my weight back, I felt I could relate to many of my clients on a deep, visceral level.

“Am I crazy to do this?” I’d asked a mentor when I first ran the idea of D-RAMA past her.

She didn’t even think before answering. “No, you’re not crazy at all. You’re burning with so much passion that you must do this. And if you let your passion guide you, you’ll take it far.”

I thought about it each time a client rang my family’s doorbell and during every argument I had with my parents over the space.

I still carried baggage from years of unhealthy image issues. I struggle so much to love who I am — and I have no doubt some of my customers feel that. Some of my clients gained weight because of reasons beyond their control and know it’s temporary. Many others are happy with their size, but some of them aren’t.

When that’s the case, they don’t only come to D-RAMA for clothing. They’re searching for the innate sense they’re not alone in their pain, that I understand them, feel for them, and wish the world didn’t judge them for their size. And I desperately wanted to do that. I wanted the world of fashion to welcome them in a way it never welcomed me.

So there I was — attempting to change the world — from my parents’ basement.

When I first asked my mother and father about using their guest bedroom, back when I only manufactured six items, they were completely on board. “Whatever you need,” they said, assuming the business would occupy a tiny part of the basement.

At first, it did.

Then, as my collection grew, so did the racks in my parents’ basement. I moved from one guest bedroom to two, then to three, and eventually I took over my mother’s Pesach kitchen, too. During the hectic Erev Yom Tov season, I cringed as clients rummaged the racks alongside my mother, who stood a foot away from them, mixing Pesach cakes at the counter.

“This is a disaster,” I told my mother after one near-miss with a dress and bowl of batter.

I couldn’t afford to rent my own space, though, so I stuck it out at my parents’ house. With each passing day — and each new room I took over with my racks — the walls between my home and store blurred some more.

Customers who stopped by to browse the items on their way home from work would be greeted by the smell of whatever my mother made for dinner. Customers who came for a late night fitting could hear my siblings upstairs fighting over who gets the couch. Having a store in my parents’ house worked — until it really didn’t.

In December 2019, a year after D-RAMA first launched, I took one final look at the mess of racks taking over the basement and knew. It was time for my own storefront.

to be continued...


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 768)

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